So a theme has cropped up this week - training solo. A couple of people have brought it up to me, and so, of course, that got the wee gerbil a spinnin' on his wheel.
I spend a great deal of my time training solo. I've found there can be positives and negatives to training alone. First though, I feel I should give a little background about me so you can put my thoughts in context...
I'm an only child. I failed sharing in kindergarten. I've learned to share since then, well, to a certain extent.
I will not share my Bridge Mixture. If you want some, get your own bag. Don't worry if you can't eat a whole bag, I'll finish off mine and gladly eat yours too.
I will not share my sushi; however, if you have something I want to try, I'd be happy to swap comparable pieces. No, I won't swap a spicy tuna cone for a tiny ass piece of california roll. Comparable is the key word here.
I will always share my Jack Daniels with you. Just bring a tumbler and some ice and I'll pour ya some sweet nectar of the Gods. We can then sit and talk about music, triathlon, movies or whatever.
Now this wee bit of background may lead you to believe I don't play well with others, hence I like to train alone. However, this would be a falsehood. I love swimming with the gang on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Having them there pushes me on days when I'm tired and have troubles finding the strength within to go harder. I loved riding with Richelle on the weekend; she brought my biking up a notch and I look forward to future Sunday rides for that reason. There is comaraderie to training with others that I enjoy.
So when is it good to train solo, and when is it good to train with a group?
I can only speak for myself, of course, but sometimes I find training with a group can lead to some negativity. Not on part of the others, but on my part. I loathe to admit this, but I have been known to fall in the trap of comparing myself to others. GASP! I know, it's hard to believe, yet it is true.
It matters not that I have only been doing this sport for two seasons. Nor does it matter that I started at a later age, I have weight lifting background rather than a running/biking/swimming background and I have completely different DNA from anyone else. For some reason, I feel I should have miraculously become the fastest, strongest triathlete ever within the past two years. I actually compare times, speeds, race results and wonder, how come I'm not like them?! The practice of comparison is silly of course. We all do it though.
Realistically, unless we are being paid to do this sport I think we should worry less about what others are doing and concentrate on all the little achievements we make.
Training on your own can have its advantages too. You won't be as tempted to compare yourself to anyone...because there is no one there! (You'll still do it after races though!)
The biggest gift I get from training alone is building up my mental strength. It is a well known fact that endurance races are 80% mental. So why not spend 80% of your time training alone and working on your mental game? Afterall, on race day, even with your family and friends cheering you on, it is just the totality of your mind and body that will get you through the day.
One of the bigger mental challenges I face is staying in the moment; staying focussed. I believe this is a necessity, not just in training and racing, but in life. It takes practice to stay calm and focussed. So practice I do. I sit on my trainer in the basement with no television, no radio, no distractions. I go out for a run without the MP3 player.
The majority of time I train alone my mind is busy with thoughts of the day, thoughts of what I want to write. Just thoughts. Zipping here and there - zing, zing, zing! Then I start to focus on my breathing. I focus on all my muscles working. If I'm lucky, a sense of calm washes over me. This is the zone. This is Nirvana. This is peace. I love being in this place, and I know I wouldn't get there if I weren't training alone.
The negative aspect of training alone is, of course, not having someone there to keep you going or to push you when you are struggling. One can only hope this doesn't happen to often.
So, what would you rather do - train solo or train with a group?
Peace out my friends.